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Kingfisher Air: Revival Possible?

Friday, August 12, 2016

While surfing over Quora, there was this interesting question raised:

If you were to plan a revival strategy for Kingfisher airlines how would you do it?

First things first: As of 2016, Kingfisher Air is no more listed on the stock exchange. It is reeling under a debt of 7000 crores. As seen from financials at end of March 2013, they show a loss of 4500 crore. All I could read is that if Mallya does repay the loan, banks are going to earn a huge profit as the accumulated interest would be hefty. Though Kingfisher revival or airline sector revival is far away – NPA revival would be the first story to precede Kingfisher airline.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

For any new airline that is likely to enter – they are going to spend plenty of time and money in creating a brand. A smart move for them would be to simply buy over Kingfisher brand that has created its own unique charm around itself! That would be the simple biggest way for Kingfisher as a brand to see any revival. All this media coverage over a course of few years has given huge publicity to Kingfisher brand – impacting a higher brand recall though you may debate positive or negative.

Imagine if Kingfisher Air was to fly again, would it further hurt Mallya and banker’s profits or would be a first of its kind Indian rags-to-riches story, restored pride case or something that find its place in history pages of business cases as a re-successful venture? If Kingfisher Air were to be successful again, it is not just ordinary profit that would help them out as a reeling debt of 7000 crores is no joke. If we take profitability of Interglobe Aviation (Indigo), their last 5 years of annual profits do not equal 7000 crores! But, if we were to consider it as repayment towards banks, their profit numbers surely would make good news for NPA revival story. As of 2016, everyone is bullish on banking sector in India, sector which has seen highest investment from all fund managers.

As every B-school grad in India has enough cases on aviation, each one of them is an unknown expert on the topic. Guess, management at Kingfisher Air has plenty of advice all over. The best part is that Kingfisher as a brand is still intact due to the breweries business. Have you heard of Paramount Airways in the Indian domestic scenario? It was an airline that started in 2005 and ceased in 2010 – though certain chartered services still continue. You would understand the emphasis on brand impact with this analogy.

So, what possibly could work for Kingfisher were they to be in air again? They would need something that’s epoch-making, something that none of the grounded airlines have done in past and exceeding the usual profits of an ordinary airline. My quick thoughts around following industry best practices as well as differentiators:

  • No ownership of  aircraft; all leased aircraft to follow till the next wave of ‘good times’. This is standard practice across successful operators like Indigo, SouthWest and RyanAir. Numerous Kingfisher’s old aircraft were scraped – not even sold out but scrapped. Leasing might incur a higher variable cost but a lower fixed cost makes sense for a new business venture that is striving to grow. Other benefits of leasing include a newer and far safer aircraft – far reduced cost of maintenance; something that the group should fear.
  • Single aircraft type; You might very well know that IndiGo only has A320s in their domestic as well as international fleet; SpiceJet only carrier Boeing 737s. There is no harm in carving a niche around something fun like ATR-72. This single aircraft type helps the company in negotiating better with lessees – you are now going for more aircraft numbers. Other benefit of having a single aircraft type is reduced cost of training, now any pilot can take over any aircraft. Your permutation and combination complexity is simplified by a large margin.
  • Pilot Hiring; There is a clear oversupply of pilots in India who are well trained, not only from Indian institutions but from all over the world and they have no job of flying. Many of them have opted to join call centers and to take up menial jobs at airports. Wonder how much can Kingfisher negotiate with them? What if Kingfisher helps the to reduce their educational loan/debt payment? The longer you stay, more would the airline help you to repay your loan faster. Or, Kingfisher simply clears off their education related dues and signs a bond for working for a longer time. You’ll have enough takers there with the current supply-demand scenario.
  • Connecting smaller cities (connecting non top 10 cities): Needless to say, top routes like world’s 6th busiest Mumbai – Delhi and others need to be captured. Let’s imagine only a case of top 20 cities in India by GDP and population. Wonder how would the connection from the 9th ranked city to 19th ranked city currently looks like? (Pune and Patna) Isn’t it under-penetrated as of now… To make things simpler for an airline – what is the connection between 11th busiest airport by traffic in India and the 19th busiest one? (Indore and Trivandrum). Industry insiders would know better but potential can only be understood when tested – there should be enough data based research prior as a requisite. I was thoroughly impressed to see Indigo’s flight connection. On a travel from Kolkata to Pune, the flight had a route of Kolkata-Ahmedabad-Pune-Nagpur-Delhi. And return on the same day! So, there you see – how it is possible for them to do it! In my personal network, I’ve always wondered why Pune-Chandigarh/Kolkata flight does not exist despite the many and many business and leisure travelers that I’ve come across.
  • Connecting smaller towns with top cities: Other area can be to increase more connections to smaller towns from Tier 1 cities. Indigo’s first flight was from Delhi to Guwahati which no one had thought of as a profitable connection! You can always tinker around thoughts on how optimum connections would be – a combination of tier 1 and tier 2 cities should also do good. Enroute a flight to Jamnagar, I wondered why there was only 1 Air India flight in Jamnagar – Mumbai route that travelled both ways and stay parked whole day? The flight can keep travelling across the country generating more revenue. And that brings me the next point.
  • Lower turnaround times: The business of an airline can be profitable only when you are in air for maximum possible time. There is no harm in trying flights travelling over night at airports that have been kept open for flying by AAI. I would slow overnight ATR 72 flights that can depart from Mumbai at 1 AM and reach Delhi at 5 AM. I have taken 2 AM departing domestic flights in past and found them to be extremely time saving in past, giving me a full Sunday at my destination. An ATR 72 flies slower but has capacity to run for 6 to 7 hours! Wouldn’t this also address the competition from upcoming bullet or high speed trains in India as well as the overnight intercity buses across various destinations? This can be experimented by trying and testing various routes but what would help you buy more time in air is nothing but lowest turnaround time. Right from luggage management, queue arrangements and food logistics – an organized structured and standardized process across shall help you buy that time. Indigo’s on time promise is the consumer facing catchy marketing proposition but what they have given highest priority on their operations is to lowering turnaround time. I find it 2 sides of same coin.
  • Why frills? There is no problem in continuing with all frills that they offered in past by having additional charge and keeping them optional. Even if conversion rate is 15%, you have enough upselling done. Only the tie-ups with OTAs like MakeMyTrip would need an additional webpage for ticking options. Currently, the same exists for a few flights asking you for veg or non-veg meal preference. With information in advance, you know what is the required inventory. You can continue with digital displays, music and movies with them at a fractional cost.
  • Amazing discount tie-up partners: Most consumers have their unique online identity linked to their phone numbers. And now there is UIDAI’s Aadhaar linked with bank accounts. What if you get the most discounted flight but comes with a condition that full fare needs to be paid, discounts being credited after 75 days? That is a similar trick that wallet service of MakeMyTrip does currently and it has worked for them. What if you tie-up with the select 4/5 telcos in India and credit the discount to your telcos? I would totally love to see reduced billing solely due to my flying with a specific airline! And there is Apple Watch, Google Watch on the anvil. With 4G and IoT about to come forth, discount being credit to a phone bill is a unique value proposition. With convergence of banking, telecom with technology as an enabler, airlines can take advantage of this large base of tech-savvy consumer base coming their way. What if you can tie up with Amazon India where if same phone number has an account, you get instant discounts showing you how much of discount money can be used immediately? Payback currently offers this service and every time I am booking through MakeMyTrip, it clearly shows how much money can be discounted using Payback points. If not Amazon India, there are aplenty of them like Flipkart today who would sign up readily. For eg., I see a flight at a cost of 7,500 INR but discounted price is 4000 INR. I need to pay full 7,500 INR and discount of 2,500 INR would be credited back to my payment method after 75 days. It is assumed that lower price war would continue but this gimmick can provide you power to offer lesser prices. In those 75 days, airline can keep all accumulated discount money parked in a liquid fund and earn a smart 7% p.a. money. If I buy anything online within 75 days with an account linked to the same mobile number which was linked for booking,  what if one gets see to see a prompt showing the discount money? Discounts are discounts but what’s important is the brand recall and visibility that you are buying in consumer’s mind-space! Jet has a differentiated and privilege tag attached to them with their Jet memberships that can be extended to the online sphere by smart actions. Anyone who buys flight tickets surely has a habit of buying online through e-commerce websites. Analytics in aviation space are still unheard and I believe that like all consumer centric B2C businesses, aviation can benefit largely with adoption of analytics on their own consumer base to add value.

These ideas are pretty generic in nature and there is a cesspool of many more granular level thoughts beneath surface that have not been entered here. But, what lacks in the end is a will by management. I don’t find the current aviation industry in India very competitive not because of the low price proposition but due to the fact that newer ways of discounts and loyalty have not come up substantially. But, one thing is for sure – many would love to watch a historic business transformation that would involve game changing ways!

The 16th Indian National Elections!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

 

It is interesting to see the recent Indian election circus, this was definitely a different one (and to say the clichéd argument, ‘most important ever’, will also hold true). This was one election campaign with fiery emotions all around, with the highest ever money spent. It is estimated that 30000 crores INR were spent on these elections alone by different parties, as per EC.

 

Just a few observations, based on empirical analysis:

 

  • Highest ever money spent on elections

It is said that politicians have large stakes in FIIs although these are foreign investments. Political uncertainty in 2013 has kept FIIs away leading to weakening rupee. Rupee reached levels of 69 and now is at a level of 58. Imagine you traded this amount; you are atleast at a profit of 15%! Huge amount of money spent in elections has probably lead to a cycle of falling real estate prices, falling share prices before election time and a booming market post-elections. Liquidity in the market was weak pre-election time and the same is starting to float in market. Now, you have large amount of money spent in media, liquor, etc.  during election time. Hopefully, this cash starts floating around and ongoing liquidity crisis weakens with time. And so much so for the money, India has even been witnessing a near stagflation scenario from past few months. CPI had reached a 240-month high very recently. Of course, it is not just elections to blame for this, there were other factors like political uncertainty, scams, prevalent corruption, etc. But for sure, a nearing election does remain an important variable in the whole equation.

The amount spent on these elections was predicted to be at least 3 times than the amount in 2009 elections!

 

Image

Image Credit: AMA Television Network

 

  • Increasing role of social media

I believe half the elections are predicted by simply looking at content and memes spreading on Facebook/Twitter, etc. this is true even of state level elections. There are multiple factors that could be attributed, i.e. India’s median age at 26 and presence of an extremely high number of young citizens on social media irrespective of income category. It was clear in Delhi before the election started when widespread support for AAP and BJP was omnipresent on FB. In the general elections, anti-Rahul Gandhi, anti-Sonia Gandhi and anti-incumbency messages were afloat all over. Slowly, widespread support for BJP and their prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was observed over Facebook and Twitter. 2009 general elections were not fiery as much as these elections were, and presence on social media of Indians did not predict outcome of elections to such an extent.

Managing social media definitely is a key concern for all political parties here onwards; there are no 2 thoughts about this. With 60 crores of population in India in the age-group of 0-26, could you imagine there are 2 crores likely to join every year on Facebook and Twitter if we are to consider the pre-teens and toddlers?!? And yes, I am not saying online marketing. That is equivalent to managing PR as what politicians say or do goes on media firms like NDTV, HT/ET, etc which already have enough online presence. My argument is specifically for the case of managing social media. The choice of Digital India as predicted finally won, BJP won with a historic 284 seats!

Look at the anti-incumbency from Tunisia to other parts of Arab world to Istanbul, Kiev and Tehran. It is social media that is acting as a newsfeed for the young, not the traditional media which are often state controlled in these nation-states.

 

  • Anti-incumbency, anti-dynasty vote

This has come up even before. But, people are now against dynasty politics like never before. This election for a vast majority has been to oppose existing government and oppose dynasty of Nehru-Gandhi family. People are not just okay with Rahul Gandhi becoming an important seat in INC only by virtue of birth. The lesser said the better. The anti-dynasty vote was prevalent from quite some time. Even in 2009, it was due to visibility of Manmohan Singh that helped them to a large extent.

I cannot remember any time when someone hailing from an important political family is being derided on social media and every possible medium so humiliatingly. Please live a royal life, please settle abroad, please invest in business, do anything that can make your name, but people want only candidates coming from ground, who have struggled to reach their zenith to come in power. All other parties had candidates without any major dynasty background dictating terms. And this helped them unanimously.

It is the never-seen-before anti-incumbency sentiment that has even given rise to regional parties and new parties like AAP setting up.

 

  • PM Candidate, much like the US President like campaign

Entire campaigning was centred on PM candidates like Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. This was started by BJP, followed by INC. The party manifestos did not really have a meaning, what the PM candidates said mattered more for the media and ordinary citizens. The 2009 elections were similar with Manmohan Singh and LK Advani as prime ministerial candidates but there was no direct declaration by any party on who would be the PM. It was more about assumption but not reported directly as found in these elections. This tradition of campaigning by PM candidates did exist before, but we did never saw it as pronounced as this time. CM of a state had been campaigning throughout nation because he was the PM candidate and the party brought any changes required.

 

  • Less Bribes; More Diatribes

This is probably the only election when we have heard less of bribes and more of diatribes. All throughout the election, it was a high decibel campaign where mud-slinging was rampart. Candidates were even blacklisted, provided with warnings for the level of personal attacks and politically incorrect statements made. This was the first time when a PM candidate had been throwing personal attacks on other PM candidate and opposition party candidates. The general Indian population has always equalled a PM with humble nature and a respected figure; recent ones include Manmohan Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Narsimha Rao to put a few cases in point. However, we had seen Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi spit venom against each other and other opposition members wherever possible. All other party members of major political parties had something to speak of at all possible moments.

 

  • High Emotion Drama

This is something typical of any election. But, this was the time when for the first time I have seen people getting swayed by all diatribes by politicians. One look over your Facebook wall anytime in March and April, and you will find Congress, Samajwadi party, AAP and BJP spokesperson all over! People were actually arguing with intensity on the side of their politicians. And these are professional urban class people that I am talking about. Where is the usual argument, ‘they are all politicians!’, where are the data facts and statistics, where is the sane view?!? Politicians have traditionally made tall claims about their work, and this went to a real high level this time. We have a politician say ‘Muslim soldiers fought in Kargil War’ while another had saying, ‘1 in 2 children born in Gujarat are born malnourished’! Various newspaper columnists, commentators and economists surely have had a hard time understanding this.  This is something like an ‘opinionated fact’!! What can be even said about this! With internet at your fingertips and mobiles, I wish this trend stops for once in the coming years. Anyone can check composition of army who fought in Kargil War and the malnutrition statistics of various states of India in a few seconds. And that would be a really interesting time!

And now I get it. Solving this jigsaw puzzle, one understands this is what the ‘Square People’ syndrome is that Thomas Friedman talks about in latest New York Times articles.

The aspiring young middle class is growing throughout world and India with a huge population base of 120 crores+ has median age of 26. So, you have at least 2 crores adding up every year with aspirations of making it to Great Indian Middle Class living a decent standard of living.

The ‘Square People’ have started speaking, started to push their priorities to politicians and looks forward to getting things done. We surely have interesting times ahead the world over.

 

What is Passion?

Sunday, October 16, 2011


What are you passionate about? That’s one question which is often not so easy to answer. If you are thinking for the first time on a question like this, believe me, the answer might be a few days or even weeks away. People come up with myriad answers on this, like ‘driving’, ‘photography’, ‘travelling’, etc. What most of them are actually answering is the question, ‘What do you like to do in your leisure?’

Getting to know your passion is a process that will need you to drill down yourself and you might come up with a new answer every time. Getting to know your passion is like peeling off layers of an onion, where you explore something at the end or another analogy, if you want, would be with solving a jigsaw puzzle. Passion is something very basic found among humans from years unknown. Passion is imbibed, it has to be revived. ‘Money’ was also one of the answers that one could come across. Yes, it may be so. In the short term, materialistic aspirations can help you lead your life, but in the long run, it is only your passion that will help you survive, inspire you to live your life. If you are in a business or work that involves your passion, you can go a long way. Remember, passion is very different from a hobby. A passion is something that would most likely be a one word answer, something that could also be liked by a person living in this world, 2000 or maybe 5000 years ago.

Image Credit: 'Cactus Kate - The Politics of Passion'

This was a question posed to us in class by one of our professors, we had to submit presentations on the same and only then could I realize the depth of this question a few days down the line.

In my case, the process was long enough as expected. To start with, the first thing that came to mind was ‘roaming’. Drilling down deep, I though it is something like ‘exploration’ or ‘adventure’. But, that definitely was not the case. Then, I thought it is ‘travelling’. But I knew very well that it was no way travelling at all! ‘trains’, ‘ships’, ‘trucks’, ‘highways’ were things that clicked me but instantly, the  thought that came to mind was ‘this is revolving around something’. I can stare at maps for long durations, explore on Google Earth, trying to know every smallest street in city and the short cuts. Imagining a top view as we explore a new place, guessing out where are east, west, and south or north is something that I love.  ‘Geography’ ticked, but I was no way curious to know about plants or animals and many of the natural features. ‘Nature’, no way! When I bought my cell, the first thing I looked for was ‘GPS’. Knowing about the culture, economies, demographics, religions of various places and/or countries was another thing that I liked.

Joining all the dots, I could come to that simple one word answer, ‘places’!!

Yes, I am passionate about places!! It was such a simple answer. Had I been born 500 or 5000 years ago, I would have still liked that. After discussing this with a few other friends, one could come across this wonderful complexity of likes, hobbies and passions. One friend, who thought, knowing about gadgets, gizmos, etc. was his passion, started rethinking it. All this did not exist 500 years ago. After some thought, the nearest answer he got was ‘innovation’. Had he born in industrial revolution, the new machines would have been his area of curiosity.

Other friends, who talked of photography as their passion, drilled down and thought on what they photograph mostly. People, places, nature, making moments memorable, it could be just about anything. The answers lied there. One friend found that he occasionally searched Google for many plants, animals, phenomena of nature and photography was just a way to reach that! The underlying passion was ‘nature’, something that humans 5000 years ago could also be passionate about.

If you observe your curiosities for a topic, observe your Google searches, and find an intersection, well that is the first step towards reaching your passion. If you try venturing out to do a business in your area of passion, you never know what the output may be!

Take our Captain Gopinath, who was always passionate about ‘flying’! An Enfield dealership gave him that nearest experience close to flying. Then leasing helicopters gave him the thrill of flying. And then came Deccan Airways! To put it in his own words, he wanted every Indian to fly! If you read about the life of Richard Branson, ‘adventure’ is what he is passionate about but he hasn’t really explored that. He presents himself as flamboyant but that is just the outer layer. The acts show something else.

So, why not spend a few weeks from now thinking on this question? You might love this process of self-exploration and observing!

‘One Life To Ride’ – A Book Review

Sunday, September 4, 2011
Image Credit: Aerostich

Imagine you are at a friend’s place that is approximately 500 meters away from a national highway, rather a major one like the NH4. Although the place is considered inside the city, it is quite easy from the place to go outside the city. You are at your friend’s place because you planned for a long ride the next day but silly constraints of work stop you.

That’s exactly how my position was some time back. I had been to a friend’s place at Baner in Pune, where the flat is a stone’s throw from the highway. Owing to some external pressure, the plan for a long ride seemed faded enough to convince that we are not going tomorrow. But, the sound of large commercial vehicles on the highway wasn’t letting me sleep when this book, ‘One Life To Ride’ caught my attention, lying on the wardrobe.

 

Image Credit: Aerostich

 

I started reading it at around 00.30 am and I came out of it at around 4:30 am! This book, by Ajit Harisinghani is about his ride on an Enfield Bullet to Leh, all the way from Pune. A ride on the famous Manali – Leh road (world’s highest motorable road) that is open in select few months of the year was the motive behind this ride.

The book has excellent narration and if travelling is your hobby, riding a bike is a daily thing for you; it will keep you hooked on for a long time with hangovers assured! You might not even notice how the pages turn.

It starts with how the author loves the legacy system called Enfield Bullet despite the introduction of new age electronic-start, fuel efficient sports bike in recent years. He has had multiple cross country trips before but the one on Himalayas was something special that he could not complete. He takes a trial ride from Pune to Goa and back just to assure that his age supports such adventures.

Starting with NH4 with first stop at Dahanu (a town towards north of Mumbai on the Maharashtra border), then NH8 till Delhi and further ahead, the ride is all smooth till Manali. The real adventure starts after Manali where the 500 km long stretch till Leh that occasionally has glacier melting on it. While in Rajasthan, he comes across some fake saints, also comes across Sufi saints who tell him that ‘your white hair would save you’.  It turns out magically true in Kashmir where he is in some serious trouble due to bike wheels getting stuck in the boulders. This experience is well narrated in the book. The fellow riders that he meets all come up with their set of problems faced en route but nothing stops where there is a will. The glitches while on the Manali – Leh route are enormous with the fear of not making it to planned destination before sunset, bike failures, health problems due to low oxygen in air and strangeness of the adventure!

The world’s highest motorable road is finally reached by him, Kargil, Dras all visited. And the stories do not end there… A strong nature’s call while going through stretches of high military protection, the joy that Maratha regiment has over sighting a MH 12 (RTO registration number for Pune vehicles) vehicle and meeting Marathi speaking army men in Kargil makes the book an interesting read. The author reaches Jammu and as planned travels by Jhelum Express to return for Pune with the machine in luggage section.

The excellent narration would not realize you that you are reading a book but would take you to those places in Himachal and Kashmir mentally. I cannot write the stories/experiences in detail as it would truly spoil the fun of reading and would be legally and ethically wrong.:)

IMHO, the only thing the book lacked were photos of the ride as very few images could be found in the book. But the narration would force you to form images in your mind. Also, the first two chapters on the emotions felt for Enfield were a bit lengthy and tempted to skip the content.

The different flavours of India, the common thing that binds us all, chai (tea) and sutta (cigarette), ever helpful nature of people all across the country from west to north India could be well found across the book. Overall, it is a must read for all those who have ever had road trips in life (which I believe everyone has), especially on 2 wheelers or those who are interested in anything like travel, geography or places around the world. Sure, this piece of literature is something I would like to see finding a mention on something like National Geographic, Lonely Planet or Outlook Traveller.

At 4:30 am, I realize chirping sound of birds only to remind me that it is morning and that much dreamed trip to Matheran on Pulsar ought to be done today anyhow, especially considering the hangover of this book!

My Rating: 4.5/5

If you wish to buy the book, it is available with Flipkart for Rs. 156, at other places online and it has a Marathi version too.

Two Months in Mumbai

Friday, June 3, 2011

People all over the country and abroad have seen reference to this city frequently in Bollywood movies, TV serials. The business community all over the world thinks of this place first whenever a thought on business in Asia or south Asia comes up. Cricket enthusiasts have been listening to the names of many local boys making it big in international cricket and particularly in batting for the last few decades. The base of entertainment industry is in this city. All this started much the same as other big cities of the world; it was an important port for the world. Even today, those in logistics and transport sector think of this city when a thought on an important air/sea/rail port in Asia or south Asia props up. Finance wizards are based here as the Nifty and Sensex rise and set like the sun. The most well known city for public transport in India, for a long time has been Mumbai. Even terrorists think of this city when they are to plan their job. This is also a city with one of the least crime in India.

Those are some good/bad things which you all would know on paper, knowing more good than bad before reaching here. But, once you got to come here for a short stay, you would understand that the reality is far worse than what you have heard.

Image from Google Earth

 

As I came here, my search for accommodation for two months started. Two months stay meant that I am not going to get any flat as the Lease and License Agreement is for 11 months, the only option left being paying guest. A bed and wardrobe is what you get in PG, with shared toilets and occasionally no water. All this after paying a decent amount which could give you a good apartment had your stay been for 11 months or more.

The very first thing you would observe is that Mumbai and foul smell have a deep connection. There are two reasons for it.

First, it’s a horribly humid place and an outsider starts sweating unknowingly and more than he expects. Other humans go through the same and all people sweat collectively. As you travel by a BEST bus or a suburban train, you cannot escape the stink of sweat!

Second, footpaths here are not always meant for walking, they are meant for various shops. You can easily find people living in shanties beside a street and they often bath on footpaths without any concern for the others’ hygiene (forget theirs). Stink from road sides is commonly found when you walk out of major railway stations.

If you travel by bus or auto to go to nearby place, say 2 to 3 kms away, you would realize that walking was a better option. The difference is that if you sit in the city bus, you are at the receiving end of stink. If you walk (which will make you sweat eventually), you would be the one to emit sweet smell of sweat and harass other people!

A device if invented such that after fitting on the nose, would help in reducing the intensity of stink, will find a great market in Mumbai.

But, when it comes to mass transport, there is no other place where you would get to enjoy government subsidies at every stage like this. For going long distance, you would most likely travel with a combination of bus, rail or auto. Buses and railways are subsidized by government and one can reach in 15/20 ` to the desired destination.

In case of autos, you would be lucky to get auto without problem. You will find 1 vacant auto after 10 have passed, and the one vacant auto driver will refuse to ply to the destination where you intend to go, in a fraction of a second. If you are lucky enough to get an auto that will go to your intended destination, traffic will welcome you further ahead! The auto drivers do not need you, you need them.

All this would motivate you to escape as soon as possible!

If you try going by a BEST bus, you need to know the route numbers and knowhow of some localities. BEST was one service that in my stay, I found really very impressive. Try reading names on it, you would find it really weird and irritating. The names sound like private parts of a human or an animal. Boriwali, Kandivali, Chandivali, Gorai, Marve, Marol, Sakinaka, Powai, Vesave, Mulund, Madh,  Panvel, Turbhe, Kopar Khairane, Rabale, Mahape, oh shit!!!

All I can say while leaving is that this is a beautiful place if you have a high paying job. It is the best place for working in India and earning money. Working culture and growth in Mumbai is unmatched. But, living in Mumbai permanently is not an option one should exercise unless he is a crorepati. If you try settling in, affordable homes are found in suburbs or outside the city which means a long suburban train travel.

As for bird watching, you can find girls in Mumbai are usually not fat. Travelling by mass transport, running for catching buses and trains provides enough exercise. A perfect 36-24-36 cannot be found easily, but tending to reach near it can be seen easily. In case if you found a perfect figure, it is most likely to be an aspiring model or an established one!

The crime statistics may show that crime is on a lower side, but please don’t mistake it for the presence of saintly people or an outcome of moral science classes. Because the place is so crowded, it is not easy to rob and run, there aren’t many places where you would find no crowd at all. Someone trying to snatch jewelery from a bike can’t take much speed to run away, while a pick pocketer cannot run away!

India Was So Rich!

Monday, February 1, 2010

I have written the title this time, quite skeptically. We are always told that India was very rich in the medieval times. Please note the claim, ‘medieval times’, not the ‘ancient times’. Many exaggerations of the same are also spread, like ‘pots of gold used to exist in every home’, etc. and etc. In the ancient times, I am quite sure India along with many other nations of the present – day was super rich. But, as far as the medieval times go, most people would amalgamate the medieval era with the ancient era.

There remains a basic difference between the two. In ancient time, India was rich along with its people. In medieval era, India, and even China, for that matter, might be rich as compared to other then-existing world nations. But, were its people rich as compared to other nations of the time? The answer remains no.

In India, it is a common thought in the minds of the people that in the medieval era, the present day developed nations were all poor. That would include the United States, Canada, Oceania (Aus and NZ) and the whole of Europe, while same would have a favorable view on China’s prosperity. USA and Australia were definitely unheard places then but what can we say the same in case of Europe?

There was this interesting piece of read that I found in ‘The Post – American World’ by Fareed Zakaria. I am pasting the relevant passage here. The statistics that are cited are in turn taken from Angus Madison’s book, ‘The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective’. It reads:

We

have lived in a Western world for over half a millennium. Despite the rise of other nations and continents, the shadows of the West will be long and its legacies deep for decades to come, perhaps longer. It has become commonplace to say that actually China and India were as rich as the West right up until the 1800s. The dominance of the West, according to this perspective, has been a 200-year blip, and we are now returning to a more normal balance. This statement also implies that the West’s advantages may be largely accidental—the result of “coal and colonies,” that is, the discovery of a cheap energy source and the domination of the rich lands of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. This view, which embraces a multicultural sensibility that denies any special status to the West, has its political advantages. But while it may be politically correct, it is historically incorrect.

One reason for this misinterpretation is that analysts often focus solely on the total size of the Chinese and Indian economies. Historically, this has been a misleading statistic.

Until the modern age, a country’s economy could not be mobilized, extracted, or put to use in any meaningful sense. The fact that in, say, the seventeenth century, millions of peasants in remote and unconnected corners of China were working the land in grinding poverty did not really contribute to the nation’s usable wealth or power, even though their output added up to a large number. Population was the main ingredient of GDP, and production was largely agricultural. Since China and India had four times the population of Western Europe in 1600, their GDP was, of course, larger. Even in 1913, when Britain was the world’s leading power, with cutting-edge technology and industrial production and trade many times larger than all of Asia’s, China could claim a greater total GDP. In studying the preindustrial age, before big government, communications, transport, and broad-based taxation, aggregate GDP alone tells us little about national power or a country’s level of advancement. It doesn’t say anything about the dynamism of the society or its ability to make new discoveries and inventions. And it was mastery in these areas that gave a country new ways to create wealth and its government power.

We get a much clearer picture of the real standing of countries if we consider economic growth and GDP per capita. Western European GDP per capita was higher than that of both China and India by 1500; by 1600, it was 50 percent higher than China’s. From there, the gap kept growing. Between 1350 and 1950—six hundred years—GDP per capita remained roughly constant in China and India (hovering around $600 for China and $550 for India). In the same period, Western European GDP per capita went from $662 to $4,594, a 594 percent increase.*

European travelers in the seventeenth century routinely pointed out that Chinese and Indian living conditions were well below those in northwestern Europe. The economist Gregory Clark calculates that in the eighteenth century the average daily wage of a laborer in Amsterdam could buy him 21 pounds of wheat, in London 16 pounds, and in Paris 10. In China, a day’s wages would buy about 6.6 pounds of wheat (or its equivalent). Clark has also examined records to determine differences in the number of famines, which points in the same direction. The West, in short, was more prosperous than the East long before the eighteenth century.

So, there are enough stats and facts kept out there in the passage to enlighten us on the same. The education, innovation, research what the Western countries produced ensured that they would stay ahead of the rest far easily. Even today, the same continues and I do not see India and China turning out the research centers anywhere remotely! That would require an altogether different post, as there was some interesting read on the same in ‘India Unbound’ by Gurucharan Das. Answer lies in education and innovation again though.

On an interesting note, China and India still do stand as the world’s 2nd and 4th largest economies of the world. One of my earlier posts is written on the same.

That was an interesting eye opener!

Some Cool and Useful Innovations

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Right from printing press, which spearheaded the flow of ideas, to railways, the single most impacting invention ever, to the recent computer and internet, we have had set of inventions. But, this is not really the age of inventions. It is dominated by small and big ‘innovations’ that ease the way our already established inventions work. Ahh, without getting much jargonic, let me put up what I want to say.

This was a nice email forward and is taken from ForwardedEmails.Com . Imagine, how much they will ease our life.

Real Smart and cool inventions

SMART CUP

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Smart cup in which you can put 2-3 of your favourite cookies. You don’t need extra plates. It’s made for right handed and left handed.

BANANA GUARD

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Are you fed up with bringing bananas to work or school only to find them bruised and squashed? Banana Guard allows you to safely transport and storage individual bananas letting you enjoy perfect bananas anytime, anywhere.

LOCK-CUP

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Lock Cup – Anti-Theft Coffee Cup. Are you tired of others stealing your coffee cup? Well now there’s a solution. The Lock – Cup has a hole which prevents most people from using it. Only the owner of the cup can use his/hers shaped key to close the hole.

PENGUIN TEA TIMER

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Making tea, though easy to do, is also time consuming. Once you pour the hot water into the cup, you must patiently hover over it, waiting for the tea to steep. Well, the Penguin Tea Timer happily does the waiting for you.

Place your tea cup under the beak and set it to the desired time. As you turn the timer dial, the beak lowers the tea into the hot water. When time is up, a bell sounds and the penguin automatically lifts his beak, removing the tea bag from the water.

TRANSPARENT TOASTER

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You love toast, but you always burn it? Than, this invention us for you.
This transparent toaster allows you to see the bread while it is toasting so you just have to take it out when the colour is right. This idea is based on a transparent heating glass technology.

BUTTER CUTTER

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One Click Butter Cutter controls your portion as an important part of staying healthy. This ingenious butter cutter delivers one standard pat with each click of the handle. I liked the name though, it sounds rhyming, ‘butter cutter’.

GIANT REMOTE

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Never lose your remote again!
With giant buttons, this extra-large remote is easy to use and impossible to lose. It’s a 6-in-1 remote so you can use it to control your TV, VCR, DVD player, satellite, cable and auxiliary A/V device. It even features glow-in-the-dark buttons, so you can easily find the remote in the dark.

DAYCLOCK

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What day is today? You don’t know? Then you need a DayClock. It’s uniquely designed to keep track of weekly events like your golf day, card night, movie night, and so much more. It’s ideal for vacations and cruises when it’s easy to lose track of the day.

CRIME SCENE TOWEL

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Chalk outline crime scene beach towel – be the coolest person on the beach!

LASER SCISSORS

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Laser ScissorsCutting a straight line has never been easier. Just aim the pin-point laser and follow the line. The scissor blades are stainless steel and cut very clean with a micro serrated edge.

ILUMINATING CAR SLIPPERS

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Do you get up at night to drink water, go to the toilet…Do you wish you could see in the dark? Remarkably bright LED lights are triggered by your footsteps and light up the floor 30 feet in front of you; ultra-soft plush style are extra comfortable and cozy warm.

INFANT PILLOW

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The Zaky is an ergonomic infant pillow designed by a mom to mimic the size, weight, touch, and feel of her hand and forearm to help her baby with comfort, support, protection, and development. The Zaky can help calm your baby and help your baby sleep better through the night.

TRAVELER’S PHRASE BOOK T-SHIRT

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If you are traveling a lot and don’t always know the language of the country you are visiting, then this T-shirt is for you. It has a phrase book printed on it so just point a finger at the pictogram you need and then point it twice at the question mark, which means, “Where is it?” and in no time you have found what you were looking for… or not.

MODERN LADDER

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Realy cool modern ladder. I am not sure whether it would balance itself as the person on it properly.

WHEEL-MOVING BENCH

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Whether you want to sit on the sun or in the shade, near the river or under the tree… now you have your movable bench, to sit wherever you like.

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